New teaching workshop aims to give RIC students a competitive edge

The Rhode Island job market has been hit hard. Unemployment has been steadily rising since recession hit in December 2007 and this September it was measured at 13 percent, the largest unemployment rate in New England. According to a report by the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training, there are now 45 percent less vacancies in labor market since 2007.

MacGregor Kniseley
RIC professors like MacGregor Kniseley are thinking about the problems their students face and asking the question – what can we do to help?

Kniseley, a professor of elementary education at RIC, has put together a workshop titled “Winning A Teaching Position In A Tight Job Market.” The one-credit workshop is open to students, both graduate and undergraduate, and recently graduated alumni. The workshop is scheduled to start on Jan. 5, 2010 and will take place over the course of the month.

Kniseley said, “This is one way we [RIC] continue to partner with our alumni and provide the services they need.”

“The job market has always been competitive for recent graduates but in Rhode Island especially we have a high number of applications for a small number of positions,” said Kniseley. “Graduates and students need support in this competitive climate.”

Linda Kent Davis, director of the RIC career development center, helped Kniseley design the workshop after Kniseley conducted a research project in late 2008 and early 2009. The project tracked the important selection factors used by principals when hiring recent graduates. The study was composed of surveyed responses from 35 Rhode Island elementary school principals.

Using the findings of the study, Kniseley came up with a five-point strategy for success, which he published in an article for the American Association of Employment in Education in July 2009, and later used as the basis for the workshop.

Linda Kent Davis
The workshop will focus on developing a plan of action for the job search, giving feedback on a student’s existing application materials, providing some strong sample applications, helping students develop a professional hiring portfolio and, at the end of the workshop, students will take part in a mock job interview with a panel of school personnel to give constructive criticism.

“This workshop – designed by educators for educators - will help participants gain a realistic understanding of the challenges they will face in this current job market,” said Kent Davis. “Additionally, it will help them develop realistic strategies that will enable them to position their candidacies as competitively as possible.”

Workshop Flyer

Kniseley’s research showed that the most important selection factors for recent graduates applying for a teaching position are a high level of verbal communication skills, a high level of written communication skills demonstrated in application materials and unique individual skills, knowledge and experience, such as certification for working with students who have special needs.

“At present, the market is saturated with quality candidates, opportunities are more elusive in general, and peers become competition,” said Kent Davis. “Even so, some seeking teaching positions will be among the fortunate who secure positions.”

Bryan Salisbury, a RIC secondary education history major planning on attending the workshop, said “In this economy, with schools cutting budgets left and right, any leg up we can get is a real benefit to our career.”

Kniseley said that many students wait until they graduate to get job application materials together. This workshop will give students and graduates the opportunity to prepare themselves for life outside RIC – helping students to become graduates and helping graduates to become professionals.